“Inclusivity benefits everyone.”
That’s the ethos behind the sensory-inclusive Clonakilty hair salon Flourish & Be, which has just scooped a prestigious award for its innovative approach.
Founder and practising occupational therapist, Emma Connolly was presented with the Ann Beckett Occupational Therapy Award at the annual AOTI Conference this week.
The unique business was set up following Emma’s years of experience working with families with neurodivergent members and learning of their struggles with everyday activities – in particular, haircutting.
“At the salon, we’ve created a safe and welcoming space for individuals of all abilities that is specially designed to minimise sensory stimuli – like bright lights, loud noises, and strong odours that can trigger sensory overload, anxiety, and stress,” Emma told us.
“The biggest advantage for families is our professionally customised services and pre-appointment consultations with me. Here, I work with individuals and their families to tailor the salon experience to the specific sensory needs and preferences of each client. This individualised approach ensures that everyone receives the care and attention they need.”
Emma believes that occupational therapy isn’t just about therapy sessions; it’s about enhancing the quality of life of individuals and families in their everyday activities:
“Our salon demonstrates the powerful impact that occupational therapy can have in real-life situations, by blending expertise and innovative design to foster sensory regulation, social interaction, self-expression, and community inclusion,” she added.
Congratulating Emma on her achievement, Odhrán Allen, CEO of AOTI, said Emma’s project is an excellent example of occupational therapy innovation that makes a real tangible difference in people’s lives:
“Emma’s salon is one of a kind in Ireland and is fully integrated within the community in Clonakilty town so that it is easily accessible to everyone,” he added.
“It is a perfect example of inclusiveness, and how an environment can be respectfully tailored to meet diverse needs.”